When the Philadelphia Eagles take to Fed Ex Field on Sunday to face the Washington Redskins, it will likely be the first time that a 1-4 away team were favored over a 3-1 home team. If the Redskins needed more inspiration than the 59-28 shellacking they suffered at the hand of the Eagles last year, that should do it. Washington had an extra week to study up on their division rival foes thanks to the bye, will they be able to capitalize and put the "Dream Team" to sleep?
The Eagles come off of a 31-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills, that was a Jekyll and Hyde performance by both the team, and their quarterback. Michael Vick threw three interceptions in the first half, but by the end of the game had racked up 315 yards through the air, and another 90 yards on the ground. He brought the team back to within a score, but despite accounting for 405 of the Eagles 489 total yards, Vick's fourth interception at the two-minute warning, in Bills territory, proved to be the proverbial kill shot.
Washington comes off of a bye week, but they weren't perfect in their last outing either. They did enough to beat the St. Louis Rams, which is what counts, but Rex Grossman was a lot less effective in his second two games, than he was in his first two. Ryan Torain came in to spell an injured Tim Hightower, and steamrolled to 135 yards, a touchdown, and perhaps the starting running back job.
The two main keys for the Redskins to beat the Eagles on Sunday will be stopping Vick, and running the ball effectively.
So far in 2011, everybody has run the ball well against Philadelphia. The Eagles Wide-9 defense has come under much scrutiny this week, likely due to the fact that they sit 30th in the NFL against the run, and are allowing 5 yards per carry. The defense lines up the defensive ends outside the tight ends, so that they can have a straight line to the quarterback. Despite it improving the Eagles pass rush from those ends, teams have just been running inside, and exposing the Eagles' inexperienced linebacking corps (see match-ups). Compounding the defensive issues, Defensive End Trent Cole will probably not play.
The Redskins' zone blocking scheme doesn't necessarily lend itself that well to taking advantage of the Wide 9, but using Torain over Hightower, may allow a slightly more north-south running attack. The Eagles' maligned defense has also been susceptible to the short passing game, and Hightower can play a very integral role in that regard. The Redskins have dominated the time of possession battle in every game, except the game that they lost. Expect to see a fairly even mix of Hightower and Torain; that will keep the Eagles guessing.
The Wide 9 defense will also create space for Redskins tight ends. Considering that the much vaunted secondary of the Eagles would appear to have the talent to match the Redskins' wide receivers, the underneath dink and dunk will become even more important on Sunday. Fred Davis and/or Chris Cooley will need to step up and be a major factor this week (see match-ups), so that the Redskins can continue to control the clock. It's even more important this week, as it will help to limit Vick's opportunities.
Vick will get opportunities though, and he has some of the best offensive weapons in the league at his disposal. LeSean McCoy is an under-rated running back, and DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are one of, if not the best wide receiver tandem in football (see match-ups). Vick may have struggled some this season, but he is still one of the best athletes in the NFL. He will hurt you.
Other than costly turnovers, Philadelphia's only offensive woes are their offensive line. On top of having guys play out of position, left tackle Jason Peters is on the shelf with an injury, and late this week, his replacement King Dunlap got nicked, and if he can't go, the Eagles will be in real trouble at left tackle.
The Redskins' defense will have something to say about Vick's success though, and the Eagles offensive line woes, won't help Vick's cause. Jim Haslett has to be grinning from ear to ear, about how aggressive he can be with blitz schemes. Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo would appear to be far too much for the Eagles O-Line, and a mismatch that must be exploited; but can they stay disciplined and keep Vick inside the tackles? The Redskins have the good grace of having safety LaRon Landry to spy on Vick, instead of a linebacker; between the three Redskin defenders, they have to keep Vick in the pocket. Once he gets out of the pocket, he becomes infinitely more dangerous (see match-ups).
The stage is set for yet another monumental NFC East match-up. At stake, first place in the division for the Redskins, and a potentially demoralizing 5th straight loss for the Eagles. Andy Reid has never lost five straight games in his tenure in Philadelphia; unfortunately for him, his first could prove to be his last.
The Redskins appear to have found that winning attitude. They have a chance to put their foot on the throat of a division opponent and ostensibly eliminate them from 2011 contention. Vegas might not be buying into the massive improvements in Washington yet, but that doesn't mean that the ones who count aren't - the Redskins themselves.
Big game - big opportunity - don't miss a second of it!
Here are this week's key player match-ups:
TE Fred Davis vs Eagles Linebackers
By Andre Mitchell
This is the match-up I most look forward to seeing. Fred Davis has been somewhat non-existent in the past two games. On the Eagles side, their linebackers have been outmatched in just about every game they’ve played this year. This is the game you’d like to see the Redskins get Fred Davis back on track.
There should be a lot of openings for Davis, and he should be able to rack up some yards after the catch. The Eagles have a young cast of LB’s that has already seen rookie Casey Matthews, benched for another rookie, Brian Rolle. Two year 'veteran' Jamar Chaney has been moved from strong side LB to middle linebacker which is essentially the QB of the defense, and Moise Fokou has moved from weak side to strong side.
You have to think Kyle Shanahan will design plays that will isolate Fred and one of the young, inexperienced Eagles LB’s in open space leading to a big game from Fred. Davis’ offseason conditioning has given him more speed to gain separation and it’s showing up on the stat sheet as he leads the Redskins in average per catch at 15.5 yards. It shows that the Redskins stretch the field every time they try to get Fred Davis the ball. Fred also fights for every yard & the Eagles have shown an inability to tackle early on this year.
Every one of the Eagles linebackers are either playing out of position or inexperienced, the Skins will be wise to use one of their best assets against one of the Eagles biggest weaknesses.
Redskins Front 7 vs Eagles OL
By Justin Partlow
This is easily the marquee matchup for the Redskins this week if they want to beat the Eagles. Philly’s OL is not that good and is allowing too much pressure to Vick, while Washington is getting consistent pressure. This matchup will come down to Jim Haslett’s ability to disguise the blitz and if Vick can make the proper line calls to avoid the hits.
Lets start with the Philly OL. They are a work in progress in every facet right now. They have a guy at LT who’s a better RT in Jason Peters, and guys in the middle of the OL who are struggling right now with pressure and also developing holes for the running game (when Philly actually runs.) Right now Howard Mudd is trying to move to a more efficient ZBS scheme where the guys attack the Defenders, while under Juan Castillo they were more read and react. If Mudd can get the OL to stay in sync and allow Vick to have time to throw, this could be a long game.
Now the Washington Front 7, which is easily the best unit of the Redskins right now. This team is attacking at all angles and not allowing any QB’s to have time in the pocket. Now that has been a downside in teams attacking the weak points of the team, when the Redskins are in the zero look with no safeties deep in coverage. What Washington needs to do is attack the weak points of the Philly OL, especially the interior OL, and this could be for a long game for Vick and the Eagles.
Lets be honest though, this is a desperate Philly team and they’ll come out trying to make a statement, but I see Washington with a new look D pressuring Vick into bad throws like what happened last week against Buffalo. I fully expect Vick to have his hands full against Haslett and his aggressive D.
WR Jeremy Maclin vs CB Josh Wilson
By Emmanual Benton
Philadelphia Eagles WR, Jeremy Maclin, has become one of the more important pieces to the Eagles passing game. Maclin has emerged as their best overall receiver, and is defiantly a player Washington must contain. With 32 receptions (11 more than DeSean Jackson), he handles the dirty work, running efficient underneath routes with break away ability. Redskins DB, Josh Wilson has the duty of limiting Maclin's production this week, and it will be an integral key to the game.
Jeremy Maclin is averaging 12.1 yards a catch, a favorable matchup for the Redskins, who have allowed an avg. of 6.7 yards a catch. However, this is by far the most explosive set receivers Washington has faced this season. Josh Wilson even said earlier this week, "They're the fastest guys in the NFL."
Wilson has quietly been one of the bright spots for the Redskins this season. He's played physical at the point of attack, covered well, and is a sure tackler. Washington needs Wilson to continue being sound with his fundamentals. Maclin runs crisp routes, and if you give him an inch, he'll destroy you. Each play will begin and end at the line of scrimmage. If Wilson isn't physical at the rise of every route Maclin runs, it will be a long afternoon. Josh will prepare himself accordingly, knowing this is an important key to the Eagles potent aerial attack.
QB Michael Vick vs. Jim Haslett
By Kevin Ewoldt
The most important matchup in Sunday's game vs the Eagles is Jim Haslett versus Michael Vick. Vick's stat line is not too impressive with turnovers, but of his league-leading 7 interceptions, 5 were not his fault (bad protection and tipped balls). Vick's QB rating in the pocket this year has been abysmal no thanks to the porous oline (Eagles rank 6th worst in QB hits allowed). When Vick has gotten outside the Tackles, his QB rating is extremely high and the Redskins HAVE to prevent this. Orakpo and Kerrigan are solid pass rushers, but they do not have the speed to contain Vick. So far, the Redskin defense has only faced relatively statue-esque QBs (Eli, Kolb, Romo, and Bradford). Can our edges simply keep him in the middle and force Vick into Cofield and Fletcher? I still have nightmares of watching Andre Carter try to chase Vick outside the pocket. The Bills used a LB as a spy at times, which had some success. If the Redskins can keep Vick from getting outside, it will be an easy day.
I suspect Haslett will mix things up using Fletcher and Landry to shadow the $100 million QB. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin easily can outplay our corners if Vick finds time. The good news is King Dunlap has missed practice all week and Jason Peters will not play, which means the only Tackles on the roster right now are Todd Herremans and Winston Justice. Rak should have his way with whoever is there.
This article is the combined effort of six people. Thanks to all of them for their time and efforts. Here is everyone's contact information:
Kevin Ewoldt - Hogs Haven